DP: Access to information as key to good governance

From Governance to GOOD Governance

Although the term may be defined in different ways according to the use that is given I will focus on the definition used by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Governance is “the exercise of economic, political and administrative authority to manage a country’s affairs at all levels. It comprises the mechanisms, processes and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences.”

This is worth noting, thus unlike the definition of The World Bank which considers governance as “the way power is exercised through a country’s economic, political, and social institutions”, UNDP´s addresses citizens, representing a major shift in the paradigm.

As a general assumption, governance strengthens the capacity of the citizens to decide on the services they want to receive from the government, thus becoming subject of action. This ideology, therefore implies greater citizen participation that will result in a better quality of government with an elevated level of trust and legitimacy.

However, being conscious of the great inequalities in terms of gender, age, race, nationality, income among others, how can it be assured an equal, free and transparent participation?

It is then when the concept of good governance emerges adding on universal principles to be considered, always together with democracy. Basically they refer to participation, accountability, transparency, rule of law, separation of powers, equality and freedom to access information according to the UNDP.

So it is only through good governance, when assuring its principles that a social group has the possibility to define their priorities and act to realize them. To envisage scenarios of poverty eradication, increase the literacy rate within a population, gender equality, decrease in economic inequality, increase the state of peace, guarantee of basic goods and ideally sustainable livelihoods.

 

Assuring Good Governance through information

An entire book could be written when trying to explain the factors to consider in order to secure the principles of good governance and the effects of the active participation of citizenship.

As a personal interest, based on my communications background, I would like to talk about the access to information. It is a human right that provides the possibility to give content, quality and substance to other fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression or the right to vote.  On the other hand, it is also the value of the information itself as a legal right, which serves as the basis for such freedom of research to develop professional, academic or journalistic activities. This right is then a precondition for democracy and citizen participation.

What are some of the key features to ensure access to information?

First and foremost is the tool of a free and independent media. Media should not be controlled by the government and where applicable, should be clearly exposed and open to the public to know the origins of the information. It is also necessary to secure the plurality of media through the non-monopolization in order to have truthful and objective information that can be contrasted. Press freedom that guarantees the ability to publish on any topic and carry out criticisms without fear of reprisal.

In addition, access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) or E-governance should help implement information for the public viewer. As stated by the UNDP “use of ICTs can provide new and innovative communication channels that empower people and give voice to those who previously had none, while allowing them to interact via networks and networking.” Newspapers, radios, televisions and computers must be available on the market and / or in the service of citizens for public use so that they are accessible to the majority according to the literacy rate of the community.

Ideally media also will be open to the participation of the population to allow space for their voices. In this sense, the Internet has been a perfect response to secure the possibility of being part of public discourse. Furthermore it has allowed blurring the boundaries of information, giving a global sense to good governance.

Thus, it is clear that access to information, as a human right is just one out of dozens of key elements that may assure the universal principles. Its great importance lies in that information as well as education, intimately relates to a lot of requirements and activities associated to good governance.

Media in its free state should provide information to open people’s eyes, allowing them to know the reality as objectively as possible and should be space for public opinion to be reflected.

What real-life cases have encouraged or limited good governance? What role each of the actors played? What were the gains and losses?

 


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